30 Apr Leave Your Mark: Aliza Licht’s Sassy Guide to the Working World
Social media has made personal branding and marketing more accessible and attainable than ever before, allowing professionals to establish themselves online within several weeks. The increased opportunity means increased competition, which means professionals need to thoroughly analyze and understand what each digital vehicle is meant to do and how they can utilize them to promote their unique brands.
In an effort to share more brand building insights, I sat down for a Q&A with Aliza Licht. She is the SVP of Global Communications at Donna Karan International, an award-winning social media phenom (@DKNY), and the author of LEAVE YOUR MARK: Land Your Dream Job. Kill It In Your Career. Rock Social Media. With over 16 years of experience in the field, she is an invaluable resource and example of how to successfully implement social media to establish a brand’s online identity.
Here’s what Aliza had to say:
Q: You were one of the first people on Twitter for a brand back in 2009 and remained anonymous for two years as DKNY PR GIRL. You’ve come a long way since then and are now the author of LEAVE YOUR MARK. How has social media changed your life?
Social Media has connected me to the world in ways I could have never imagined. It has allowed me the privilege of connecting with people around the world through common interests. Because of that, over the past six years I have done a lot of virtual mentoring of people who tweet career questions at me. Tweeting back my advice on Twitter has been the digital version of “grabbing coffee with someone”. But at scale, it’s impossible to really help people in the detail they need. Everyone has specific questions and career advice needs. That’s where the book comes in. LEAVE YOUR MARK is my way of virtually grabbing that coffee and sharing everything I have learned along the way in my career.
Q: You open the book with a very inspirational story—how you hired your assistant after she built a relationship with you on Twitter. Can you summarize for us why she caught your eye?
A: I initially recognized Jenna because her blog was creative and funny. She had posted a comparison of my company’s Twitter avatar that was wearing Donna Karan, to a picture of Jennifer Lopez wearing the same dress. Then she cleverly asked, “Who wore it better?” We started an online friendship first and it wasn’t until over a year and half later that I was in the market for a new assistant. Jenna applied for the job in a professional way. She didn’t forget that I was the employer and that she was the hopeful employee. She didn’t take advantage of our friendly banter. I appreciated her sense of professionalism. I did interview many people for the position, but ultimately she was the right person for the job.
Q: Is it possible for most people to do something similar? Does it have to be on Twitter or can people use, say, LinkedIn, to make these connections? What are some strategies to keep in mind?
A: Employers never want to be pitched for a job via social media. You have to use the standard professional ways of outreach. That said, creating professional connections before you need to pitch someone is key. Build your network before you need your network. Example: If you know you’re dying to work at CompanyX one day, follow the key executives on social media and try to make a great impression (key: don’t stalk!) on them. Then later on when you follow-up with a real pitch to join their team, you’re familiar and they might feel more inclined to call you in to interview. With LinkedIn, you have to remember that its as much the employer’s professional network as it is yours; I wouldn’t try to link with someone I didn’t know or have a mutual connection with. I think people are way too liberal with whom they send requests to.
Q: You believe that branding isn’t just for companies anymore. How do you define a brand when it comes to an individual? What are some things to consider as we ponder our personal brand?
A: Personal branding is the art of aligning what you want people to think about you with what people actually think about you. Look at yourself from an outsider’s point of view. What do people remember most after meeting you? What do you want to be known for? Personal branding is about identifying the best version of you and striving toward achieving and communicating that every day.
Q: Why do so many people seek out your advice online? Do you hear that mentors are in short supply in the “real world”?
A: I think there is a lack of mentors. Everyone is trying to pave their own path and sometimes they forget that it’s equally as important to give back what you have learned. Nothing makes you more successful than helping others become a success. You have to pay it forward.
Q: Social media has some downsides too. We’ve seen a lot of people get into hot water with posts they might have considered innocuous. Some people are still unclear how to use it for work versus their professional life. Can you give some advice on how to navigate this divide, as someone who has had to do just that?
A: If you wouldn’t feel comfortable seeing your post as a full page in the New York Times, don’t post it. The lines have blurred between what is personal and what is professional. No social media update is worth risking your reputation for.
Q: You’ve handled plenty of PR crises in your day job. If someone runs into a crisis at work, what are some good first steps to take to try to minimize the impact that crisis will have?
A: The first step is to understand what happened and how it happened. You have to gather the facts before you attempt to put out the fire. Own up to your mistake and put out an apology that is sincere and heartfelt. Take responsibility. There’s a big different between saying “I’m sorry” and saying “I’m sorry but…”
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to anyone seeking a job today, what would it be?
A: Do the research! I am amazed by how many people go into an interview cold, without knowing whom they are even meeting with or the real history of the company. Don’t blow your chance to succeed because you’re too lazy to do the legwork.